Welcome to the third installment of The Crank File. The Crank File is an open forum where I will offer speculations, reviews and ravings on all things comics. In today’s episode of the Crank File we discuss the much-hyped secret revealed at the end of Amazing Spider-man issue 12. Spoilers ahead.
Reigning Amazing Spider-man writer Dan Slott refused to comment on rumors that the events of this month’s issue of Amazing Spider Man was going to break the internet. I’m happy to report that it has been 4 days since ASM#12 was released into the world and the internet still stands. Huzzah!
Secretly, I never really believed that Mr. Slott could actually break the internet. But I did take it into serious consideration. Mr. Slott has certainly performed some spectacular stunts during his tenure as chief scribe over at Amazing Spiderman. He successfully pulled off a body switch between Otto Octavius and Peter Parker leading to the bizarre but immensely entertaining events of the Superior Spider-man. And just this past September he introduced us to Gwen Stacy from Earth-65, who in the 65 universe was bitten by the radioactive spider and transformed into Spider Woman (or Spider-Gwen as she has become affectionately known by her fans). Clearly Slott is neither uncomfortable with stepping outside normal conventions or afraid of making internet-breaking changes to the world of Spider-man.
Case and point, the current Spider-Verse event has multitudes of spider-men iterations from alternate Earths banding together to fight an enemy that threatens all of their universes. In addition to providing some truly memorable and endearing Spider-heroes, these alternate Earths provide a convenient deus ex machina for introducing new characters without much exposition, like the aforementioned Spider Gwen. And although I am a big Spider Gwen supporter, it does feel a bit contrived. Which takes us to the big reveal in ASM#12. Potentially internet-breaking spoiler ahead. Last chance to turn back now.
Dun dun duhhhhh. Yup, Uncle Ben is back after being dead for over half a century. Granted this Uncle Ben is from an alternate reality and not the Earth 616 universe, but it is still Uncle Ben none the less.
In a story where alternate realities entwine and characters can jump from universe to universe, the revelation that Uncle Ben was alive in another universe didn’t land with earth-shattering impact I would have expected. Maybe it is because I’ve grown accustomed to seeing deceased characters resurrected on the regular. Heck, we just went through the “death” of Peter Parker in ASM #700’s Dying Wish, only to see him resurrected with the relaunch of 2014’s Amazing Spider-man volume 2. So it is not incredibly shocking when Marvel brings back one of the most influential characters in Spider-man’s life. But it is a big deal.
Uncle Ben’s return didn’t break the internet but it did add an interesting new fold to Spider-man mythology. We have to remember how momentous an event the death of Benjamin Parker was in Peter Parker’s life. Before Uncle Ben’s murder, Peter had been using his new found spider-abilities solely for personal gain. It wasn’t until the death of Peter’s beloved uncle and paternal role-model that he swore to use Spider-man as a means for fighting injustice and protecting others. Had that fateful encounter between Uncle Ben and the burglar never occurred, would Peter have ever truly understood that with great power comes great responsibility? It is not difficult to imagine Peter’s life taking a very different trajectory had Earth 616’s Uncle Ben lived. And now he’s alive.
Characters in the worlds of comic books are not like real people. Not abnormal just because they often wield superhuman powers, but because they exist as ideas in our shared consciousness. Good ideas don’t die, they just come back in different forms. Uncle Ben’s character represents an ideal, a loving memory that inspires strength and courage to face a hard world and to be the best that we can. The big question is, what will his memory mean when the events of the Spider-verse conclude?
I’m interested about how Slott will utilize Uncle Ben’s character and excited to see how the relationship between uncle and nephew develops. The possibilities are endless. Maybe the UncIe Ben from this universes was bitten by the radioactive spider turning him into Spider-Ben. Or maybe in this Uncle Ben’s universe, Aunt May was shot by the burglar and Uncle Ben survived, blaming Spider-man for her death. It’s too early to really speculate on the reasons for Uncle Ben’s return. We only get to see him in the last page with just a few words exchanged. What we do know is that the whole secret identity thing is out the window as Spider-man openly refers to him as “Uncle” Ben to which his uncle coolly responds, “Peter”.
I hope that the introduction of a new Uncle Ben doesn’t water-down the memory of the original, or worse taint it’s legacy. We are talking about digging up the bones of one of the most significant deaths in comics history. Don’t be surprised if you unearth ghosts. Whatever his motives, Slott has earned my confidence as a reader and my spidey sense tells me that this is going to be more than just a marketing gimmick.